Lessons From the Factory Floor
Want to make your products better? Start with your shop floor. Involve your employees early and often. They know how to make your products better. When companies make their employees a key part of their continuous quality improvement programs, they make superior products a reality, not a wish.
Many companies want to make continuous quality improvement (CI) part of their standard operating procedure, but fail because they don’t include everyone in the company – from top to bottom – as active participants. Companies that have integrated this concept into their culture are the ones that continue to evolve and improve.
That’s been a key to the longevity of two brands that are both celebrating their 100 year anniversaries this year. In 2017, Intertape Polymer Group’s (IPG) Better Packages’® and Central® brands are jointly celebrating their 100-year anniversaries. Both have taken the idea of continuous quality improvement into their culture and see it as a critical part of their longevity. They both have the track record that proves that constant evolution, fueled by a dedication to continuous quality improvement, keeps a company alive and flourishing for many decades.
“When everyone throughout the organization is committed to CI, the company thrives. We know this from experience and we’ve seen it in action,” says Paul Kromberg, Better Packages Director of Operations. The company, which has always seen the benefit of empowering workers to make change, utilizes its formal continuous quality improvement process throughout the entire organization. That means getting everyone in the organization - from factory workers to management - to understand their role in continuous quality improvement. It means getting everyone in the company actively involved in evolving their products, processes and corporate culture.
“Continuous quality improvement goes beyond just making a better product,” says Ryan Mach, IPG’s Water-Activated Tape Product Manager. “It’s about building a bridge to excellence by performing concentrated improvement activities in all aspects of production – beginning with safety, productivity, cost excellence and even stewardship of the environment.”
Getting Employees Buy-In
How does a company get its people vested in this kind of program? Heisha DeJesus, an assembler in the Better Packages plant, describes it this way:
“There’s always room for improvement. Even if we think we’re the best we still believe that doing continuous improvement makes sense. That might mean finding a more efficient way of doing things. Or coming up with a safer way of working. I see it as finding ways to do things faster and better.”
DeJesus, along with the rest of the staff at Better Packages, from assemblers to managers, went through the Better Packages CI training. The program included regular meetings where quality improvement techniques were discussed. Over 65 percent of the workforce has made suggestions for improvements. When someone’s suggestion is adopted, they receive a bonus based on the impact of the change they suggest.
Her fellow assembler, Mike Klosensk, is another enthusiastic participant in the program. “I had some ideas and discussed them with my supervisor and he encouraged me to submit them. Klosenski’s ideas have made it easier for people on the line to handle parts when they need them and this has increased efficiencies. If anyone asks me if they should make a suggestion as part of the CI program, I say, ‘Go ahead and put it in the box.’
The key to making these programs work is empowering employees like DeJesus and Klosenski to give management the information they need to understand what needs to be improved. “The more participation you get from the people on the floor the better,” advises Kromberg. “A supervisor can’t understand what’s going on everywhere in the plant. The people doing that job know it better than a supervisor ever could. We’ve found that they are the place where the best suggestions come from.”
The impact on employee morale is also significant because employees see that all suggestions are taken seriously. DeJesus went on to say, “We like that they want us to help them understand how to make our job easier. If we don’t tell them, how can they make things better?”
Going through a quality improvement process brings all members of the organization closer. “We’re training together. We’re working together and we now know each other in a different way than we did before we started this process. It’s really enhanced our corporate culture,” Kromberg points out.
Making Quality Improvement Part of the Culture
Here are some suggestions for companies that want to make continuous quality improvement a part of their culture:
- Understand that continuous quality improvement, is a long-term approach
- Realize and recognize that small, incremental changes will, over the long-term, positively affect efficiency and quality
- Involve people at all levels of the organization
- Make sure that people who produce the product understand how important their hands-on experience is
- Encourage and reward out-of-the-box thinking
- Put suggestions into action and explain their impact on the company to employees
- Showcase those who participate in the program
- Rotate employees into different departments to bring in fresh eyes who will suggest fresh ideas
Mach sums up the pluses of continuous quality improvement. “Our experience is that this approach leads to breakthrough improvements in both products and process. We’ve also found that it creates a sense of ownership in the company’s success. It represents a cornerstone of evolution present in all our facilities. We believe the process forces companies to evolve. And companies that evolve will ultimately last.”
About Better Packages and the Central Brand
Better Packages, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Intertape Polymer Group (IPG), is the leading manufacturer of tabletop water-activated tape (WAT) dispensers used in carton sealing. In 2017, both Better Packages, Inc. and IPG’s Central® brand of water-activated tape are celebrating their 100-year anniversaries. Better Packages’ product line includes auto-dispensing electric machines used in high volume fulfillment centers, as well as manual dispensers. Central brand water-activated tape is offered in a wide range of paper-only and reinforced gummed paper tape styles, roll lengths and widths. In the U.S., Better Packages sells through multiple channels that include industrial and packaging distributors and catalog wholesalers, as well as direct to end-user customers. Its worldwide distribution network consists of over 300 authorized distributors selling into over 70 countries. For more information, see: www.betterpackages.com and www.itape.com.
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About Better Packages
Founded in 1917, Better Packages is a leading manufacturer of tabletop water-activated tape (WAT) dispensers used in carton sealing. Better Packages’ product line includes auto-dispensing electric machines that are used in high volume fulfillment centers, as well as manual dispensers. In the U.S., Better Packages sells through multiple channels that include industrial and packaging distributors and catalog wholesalers, as well as direct to end-user customers. Its distribution network consists of over 160 authorized distributors including Tier 1 shipping and packaging. Better Packages also has another 50 international distributors that service over 70 countries. Better Packages is a wholly owned subsidiary of Intertape Polymer Group (IPG), an acknowledged leader in the packaging industry. IPG sells a full line of Central® water-activated tape, as well as many other premier packaging products.